Mar 31, 2008 0
NEW CABINET SWORN IN
Pervez Musharraf swore in the 24-member federal cabinet today. No real surprises. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Ahmed Mukhtar of the People’s Party (PPP) are, respectively, foreign minister and defense minister. Their public positions have largely called for a continuity in the government’s war on terror and relations with the United States. Another major player in the foreign affairs ministry will be Husain Haqqani, who leaves Boston University and the Hudson Institute to serve as ambassador-at-large. He will likely become ambassador to the United States in July, when Mahmud Ali Durrani’s term expires. Durrani, a former military general appointed by Musharraf, was also close to Benazir Bhutto and will likely take up a post in Islamabad with the new government.
Apparently, an interior minister was not appointed. Aftab Sherpao, the previous, non-interim interior minister, has been the target of multiple assassination attempts. The interior minister becomes target number one of the militants as he is in charge of the domestic Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigations Authority, and the Frontier Corps. The post of interior minister, however, will effectively be held by Rehman Malik, who served as the late Benazir Bhutto’s security adviser and has also called for continuity in Pakistan’s war on terror participation.
In short, the major defense, foreign policy, and security positions have gone to the PPP. In contrast, the PML-N will take on Pakistan’s other great challenge: the economy. Ishaq Dar and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are, respectively, the new ministers of finance and commerce. Ahsan Iqbal is the new minister of education and Tehmina Daultana is the minister of culture.
The PPP’s Sherry Rehman, a former newsmagazine editor, is the new information minister, while the PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is senior minister for communications.
Farooq Naik, the Bhutto-Zardari lead lawyer, is the minister of law and justice. Naveed Qamar of the PPP is minister of ports and shipping (and privitization and investment), while Rana Tanvir Hussain of the PML-N is minister of defense production.
This is the first phase of cabinet appointments. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) could gain representation in the next round.
CIA DIRECTOR: ‘CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER’ FROM AQ IN PAKISTAN
On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Michael Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, stated that al-Qaeda’s leadership is based along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and called them a “clear and present danger” to the United States. Whereas Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte denied that the U.S. had engaged in unilateral strikes on Pakistani soil, Hayden was not willing to confirm or deny the reports.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani invited militants who give up their arms to talks. Leaders of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan stated they would be open to talks if Pakistan gives up its pro-Washington stance. Meanwhile, a recent bombing–believed to be a U.S. strike from Afghanistan–seemed to target Mullah Nazir, a pro-government and anti-al-Qaeda Pakistani Taliban figure.
NEW NATIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY BUREAU?
The National Accountability Bureau, the government’s anti-corruption arm that has also been used for political intimidation, has been abolished by the new government. But there are reports that a new accountability office could open. It remains to be seen how this institution would be apolitical, unless the new government also goes after its friends and not just its foes. Since corruption in Pakistan is widespread, it is foolish to believe in the capacity of self-policing alone. The Gillani government should also embrace greater transparency, enabling civil society and the general public to play a role as watchdog.